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Police arrest demonstrators as Black Lives Matter supporters demonstrate in Portland, Oregon on July 4, 2020 for the thirty-eighth day in a row at Portland's Justice Center and throughout Portland, with a riot declared about 12.20 am on July 5. CS tear gas and less-lethal weapons were used, and multiple arrests were made. (Photo by John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Police arrest demonstrators as Black Lives Matter supporters demonstrate in Portland, Oregon on July 4, 2020 for the thirty-eighth day in a row at Portland's Justice Center and throughout Portland, with a riot declared about 12.20 am on July 5. CS tear gas and less-lethal weapons were used, and multiple arrests were made. (Photo by John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Trump's Cynical and Deeply Dangerous Reelection Ploy: Sow Chaos in US Cities

This is what fascism looks like. It spares no one.

Juan Cole

 by Informed Comment

Part of Trump’s reelection strategy is to scare the white suburbs, which polls show have soured on him, with “urban” (read: minority) violence. This is clear from his current campaign ads, which try to paint the gentlemanly Joe Biden as a bomb thrower.

It now appears clear that part of that strategy is to send Federal agents dressed like Iraq War troops to Democratic-run cities, on the pretext of protecting Federal property, and then for them to attack and provoke Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police protesters, causing violence to escalate and using it … to scare the suburbs. The exercise also has the advantage for Trump of entrenching a new form of secret police and of turning Federal agents into instruments of his authoritarianism. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has confirmed the plan to send the Feds into those cities.

It now appears clear that part of that strategy is to send Federal agents dressed like Iraq War troops to Democratic-run cities, on the pretext of protecting Federal property, and then for them to attack and provoke Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police protesters, causing violence to escalate and using it … to scare the suburbs.

Provoking social conflict so as to polarize society was part of the Russian hacker playbook in 2016. It is the preferred tactic of terrorist groups such as ISIL and the Neo-Nazis, since a polarized society is much easier to scare into submission.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said on CNN on Sunday that the Federal presence and tactics had inflamed the situation and provoked the protesters.

Demonstrators came out again Sunday night for the 53rd night in a row in Portland, Oregon, demanding the defunding of the city police and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, according to Tom Hallman, Jr. at Oregonlive.com

He writes,

“The Pacific Northwest Youth Liberation announced a 7 p.m. meeting at Cathedral Park before marching to the Portland Police Bureau building at 7214 N. Philadelphia Ave., which houses the traffic division. It sits at the east end of the St. Johns Bridge. Others will likely congregate in downtown Portland, where the Justice Center and the Hatfield Federal Courthouse have been the epicenter of clashes with law enforcement authorities.”

The youth have in recent days mostly clashed with Federal agents sent by Trump on the pretext of protecting the Federal courthouse, and who have used provocative teargas and physical attacks on the protesters. Video posted on YouTube suggests that the Feds, with anonymized name tags and unmarked vehicles, attacked people simply for being in the street and made arrests without warrants or any probable cause. This behavior is unprecedented for Federal agents, who seldom make arrests and have in the past proceeded only with a court warrant. In other words, they are behaving like the Egyptian secret police.

Saturday night, protesters had stormed the Mark Hatfield Federal Courthouse before being expelled by either police or Federal agents, and others had gotten into the Portland Police Association building, where someone set a quickly-extinguished fire.

On Saturday night, Zane Sparling of the Portland Tribune reports, a former naval officer and a Vet, Christopher David, who saw the Federal agents acting unconstitutionally approached them. He said he wanted to talk to them about how they were violating their oath of office. They beat him repeatedly with a baton, fracturing his hand in two places. It is in a splint and will require surgery. But he did not move, earning the moniker “Man of Steel” and “Captain Portland.” Then they pepper-sprayed him in the eyes, twice, and he retreated, stinging and half blind. He says he could have been killed.

No wonder that Federal agent did not want to wear a name tag.

Mr. David had every right to be on that street in front of the courthouse.

Mr. David is an example of how Trump’s scheme can backfire on him. Instead of a scraggly protester to scare the white suburbs with, his goons came up with a former commissioned officer in the Navy, whom they have put in the hospital for standing on the street. That is what Fascism looks like. It spares no one.


© 2021 Juan Cole
Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of  "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008).  He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. 

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